The return of serve in pickleball is one of the most important shots on the court. This is because you have the opportunity to make the third shot—arguably, the most difficult and most important shot—as challenging as possible for your opponents. The general goal as the receiver is to keep the serving team back by the baseline and not to let them come into the Kitchen line. By keeping the serving team back, you will make it more difficult for them to win the point.
You have a lot of options when striking your return of serve on the pickleball court. However, with all of these options, it is important to keep your return of serve deep in the pickleball court. A deep return of serve will help you achieve your goal of keeping your opponents back by the baseline.
With that said, let’s breakdown 5 strategies to win more points with your return of serve on the pickleball court:
- Return Middle – The majority of returns of serve should be played deep and back through the middle of the pickleball court. The return of serve down the middle of the court may cause your opponents to fight over the pickleball and will reduce your opponents’ angles of attack on the third shot. Plus, you will be returning the serve into the largest area of the court, meaning that you will have more margin for error.
- Return to the Weaker Player – Another strategy is to target the weaker of your two opponents with your return of serve. In particular, target your opponent that has the weaker third shot. Find your opponents’ weaknesses and isolate them.
- Return to Backhands – When trying to find your opponents’ weaknesses, oftentimes, you do not need to look any further than backhands. Most pickleball players have weaker backhand shots than forehand shots. So, a good starting point in finding your opponents’ weaknesses is to look for the backhand of the weaker opponent. This is particularly true if the backhand of the weaker opponent is in the middle of the pickleball court, which would combine the first three return of serve strategies into one!
- Return Down the Line – If you have good control over your return of serve, then you could also return the serve down the line. This is a notable strategy in singles pickleball because you will cause your opponent to move to the opposite side of the court that he/she served from, plus you will have less court to cover to move into the Kitchen line. This means that there is less space between you and the pickleball and you will be able to cut off more angles. Although the down the line return is popular in singles pickleball, it can also be used in doubles pickleball for similar reasons. You will be able to cut off more angles from your opponent, as there will be less space between you and the pickleball. Also, this down the line return strategy is particularly effective when you and your partner are stacking or switching as the receiving team.
- Return to the More Aggressive Player – Lastly, if you are playing against a team that likes to “Shake and Bake” or poach, then consider hitting your return of serve to the more aggressive player. By hitting the return of serve to the more aggressive, quick-footed player, then you will be able to keep that player deep by the baseline, as the aggressive player will first need to hit the third shot before crashing into the pickleball net. So, keep that aggressive player back by making him/her hit the third shot from deep in the pickleball court.
Use these pickleball strategies to win with your return of serve. Be sure to mix up your strategies, too, so you continue to be unpredictable on the pickleball court.
And, again, regardless of where you target your return of serve, your return of serve should be deep in your opponents’ side of the pickleball court. But, do not aim for the baseline on your opponents’ side of the pickleball court. Rather, give yourself a margin for error because a missed return is an easy point for your opponents. So, aim for a few feet inside the baseline to avoid any unnecessary unforced errors.
Lastly, one bonus return of serve tip is, if you are having trouble advancing to the Kitchen line after you hit your return of serve, consider using more of a lob return of serve, rather than a driving return of serve. The lob return of serve will give you more time to take the Kitchen line. But, as with any other shot on the pickleball, be aware of the wind conditions. Wind will have more of an effect on a lob return of serve than other types of returns of serve, so take the wind conditions into consideration.
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Learn 3 pickleball patterns at the Kitchen line to win more points.
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